Part I of this series focused on how to select a graphic designer. Part II was all about color and fonts. The last chapter in this series covers key standards that should be followed. Part II ended with #4, so I will pick-up with #5. Graphic design is a creative process where almost anything you can imagine can be accomplished. However, with this creative ability comes the responsibility to ensure the design works in the real world. The design should be able to be replicated consistently across different media and vendors. It should also take into account the cost to produce. Here are a few key standards that should be followed:
5. Use Industry Standards to Define Colors
Color standards are one of the primary ways to ensure the output looks the same regardless of which process or equipment is used. This includes processes such as offset printing, digital printing, dye sublimation (used for fabrics), screen printing and custom painting. If you are going to need anything other than a web site such as business cards, flyers, signage, trade show displays, vehicle graphics, branded clothing and promotional items you will want to pay attention to these standards:
- PMS (Pantone Matching System) - This is a standardized color matching system that uses the Pantone numbering system. By standardizing the colors, different manufacturers can all achieve the same result. As of today, there are 1,867 solid pantone colors. That's a lot of colors but believe it or not, it doesn't even come close to the total number of possible colors. Given this limitation, it's best to start here when defining your colors.
- CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black) - This is a 4-color process used in the print industry. It is used by commercial printers as well as in ink jet and laser printers. Pantone colors can be converted to CMYK. However, there are times the color may not match closely enough to its pantone equivalent and may have to be adjusted.
- RGB (Red, Green, Blue) - A system for representing the colors to be used on a computer monitor (hex code). Red, green and blue can be combined to create any color on the visible spectrum. Since RGB have more colors available, you will want to define these after you have already selected your pantone and CMYK colors.
6. Get All of the Files You Will Need
There are a variety of different output files that you will need depending on the project at hand. Be sure to ask upfront for any file types you will need. Here is a quick cheat sheet of the most common types of files:
Raster (Bitmap) Files: Digital images that are composed of tiny rectangular pixels
• JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) – best for photos on the web
• PNG (Portable Network Graphics) – best for images needing a transparent background
• GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) – best for small, simple images or those requiring animation
• TIFF/TIF (Tagged Image File Format) – best for very large high resolution photos/images
Vector Files: Made of thin lines and curves known as paths
• EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) – universal vector file format (software independent) – best for logos & anytime the artwork will be enlarged significantly.
• PDF (Portable Document Format) – self-contained file that preserves vector images & graphics
• AI (Adobe Illustrator) – output file of Adobe Illustrator
The best advice I can give when it comes to which file types you will need is this: Unless you are working with graphics that are photographic images only, always request vector files. Vector files are the key to ensuring that your artwork will be crisp and clean at any size.
7. Use the Right Software for the Job at Hand
The software a graphic designer uses should vary depending on what is being designed. The top three industry standards from Adobe:
- Illustrator - An industry-standard vector graphics application. It is most commonly used to create logos, icons, typography and drawings.
- Photoshop - Image or photo editing software. It is best used to manipulate, crop, resize, and adjust the color on digital photos or images. A common mistake that I often see is using Photoshop to create company logos, which should be vector graphics.
- InDesign - Desktop publishing application. It is best used for multi-page documents such as brochures, magazines, books, eBooks, etc.